- WILDLAND FIRE? -

Introduction

Streamlining a complex process of coordination for wildland fire incident management teams.

The "E-IAP: Electronic Incident Action Plan" is a digital upgrade of the paper-based Incident Action Plan (or IAP) that incident management teams currently work 16 hours a day to create and distribute to firefighters on the field in large wildland fire incidents.

Watch the 3 minute concept video (planned, shot, and edited by me), and be immersed in the experience.

Role

Lead Product Designer

Project Manager

UX Researcher

Timeframe

6 Months

Feb to Aug 2021

Team

Fontayne (clinical research)

Ran (education)

Maisie (psychology)

Project

MHCI+D Capstone

Advised by Launch

Support of NW12 IMT

- FINAL MOCKUPS AND PROTOTYPES -

Final Design

A few screens from the final design and a little bit about how it works.

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Interact with the main map screen to toggle on and off assets on the map, side screen opens for more information.

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We addressed the connectivity issue with the screens on the left. To the right, capture an image to update the team.

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Approve resources from your mobile device. Also, navigate to any personnel's last known location.

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Teams managing complex wildland fires are doing more with less personnel in dangerous, rapidly changing situations, and they are still doing it with paper.
Wildland Fires are getting more severe and the season gets longer every year due to global climate change. We are maxing out our national wildland fire resources, and doing more with less affects the safety and wellbeing of our firefighters.

- PROBLEM SPACE -

The Context
 

- WHAT IS THE PAPER? -

The Incident Action Plan (IAP)

The IAP contains critical information such as objectives, strategy, tactical actions, and supporting information for the current day. It includes incident objectives, organization assignment list, division assignments, radio communications plans, medical plan, traffic plan, safety plan, and the incident map.

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- IMPORTANCE OF INNOVATION -

Why We Need A Change.
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IAP is Labor Intensive

Creating the IAP every day is a highly manual and labor intensive process that takes 50+ people 16+ hours to make. The office and field teams collaborate face to face, sometimes traveling 2-3 times a day between the command post and the field for up to an hour each way for two weeks straight.

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Rapidly Changing Situations

When situations change rapidly, the paper IAP makes it hard to stay accountable for individuals, have situational awareness outside of your line of sight, quickly moving personnel where they are needed most, logging, and accountability.

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Static Paper Document

The IAP is a static paper document that lacks real time data and is impossible to update until the next day. However, situations change rapidly during the day and this leads to limited situational awareness, putting personnel and operations at risk and makes it hard to use resources effectively.

- HOW DID WE DO IT? -

Project Overview

- JOAN'S CONTRIBUTIONS -

My Key Responsibilities

I took a lead role in pushing this complex project from exploratory research to final designs and video deliverables by working smart and aligning team goals. Key to the success of this project was my initiative to find and build relationships with our now diverse community of stakeholders.

Outreach & Stakeholder Relationships

Took on the most critical part for the success of the project. No stakeholders = no project. Cold called hundreds people. Built relationships with 3 Incident Commanders out of 72 in the nation.

Team Strategy &
Project Management

Product planning, strategy, vision. Managed our team's calendar and budget. Overdelivered by accurately scoping and estimating our team's output, strengths, and collaborating on shared goals.

Workshop, Interview,
& Test Facilitator

Primary facilitator and designer for workshops, interviews, and usability studies involving stakeholders. Emphasis on co-designing as they had the experience in wildland fire.

Design Lead & Mentor

As senior designer and design mentor, I oversaw the design efforts for the team. Imparted design expertise w/ workshops, critiques, examples, books, and demos.

Field Research Trips

Led and coordinated field trips to live fires with the NW 12 Incident Management Team. Balanced goals, logistics, planning, team strengths, calendar, etc.

Videography

Spearheaded final video prototype. Camped and shot video and photos at Whitmore Fire for 3 days. Coordination, preparation, shooting, editing done by me.

- DISCOVER+DEFINE -

Research Timeline

Our team did a lot of exploratory and generative research into Wildland Fire to understand the complex problem space and human pain points within it.

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- CREATE+TEST+ITERATE -

Design Timeline

We created 100 concepts and used co-design (down selection workshop) to down select to the Incident Action Plan (IAP) concept. We came up with the storyboard through our field trip to Batterman Rd. Fire experiencing a full day of the making of the IAP in person. We spent a few weeks creating prototypes to test and did two rounds of testing and iteration: one remote and another in the field at the Whitmore Fire. Then finalized the designs and created the video.

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- 11 WEEKS TO LEARN -

The Research Phase

- HOW WE LEARNED -

Our Research Methods

Below is our research methods and how we learned about wildland fire communications and incident management.

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Comprehensive Literature Review

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Ground Up Recruitment

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24 Interviews

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Thematic Analysis of Interviews

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Synthesis / Affinity Diagramming

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Wildland Fire Conference

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Competitive Assessment

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Field Research at Live Fires

 

- WHO (WHAT WHY HOW) -

Our Stakeholders

In researching wildland fire communication, we needed to find and understand a great number of people and the positions they held to be able to create a viable product.

The Incident Command System (ICS)

Wildland Fire Incident Management Teams use the Incident Command System (ICS). We talked to people across the incident command system in order to get a holistic view of what information needed to be communicated during a wildland fire.

After research, we decided the most critical information that is the biggest factor in how quickly the fire gets put out is the communication between select groups at the incident command post and the people out on the field fighting the fire.

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We focused on the Incident Commander, Incident Command Team, Operations Section, Planning Section, and Communications.

The Challenge of Finding Wildland Fire Stakeholders

We started this project with knowing exactly zero people in wildland fire. I dove in and took the initiative to get people to interview for our team to both understand the problem space and potentially gain access to a live wild-fire. I started with posting for interest on social media platforms and asking people to share. We weren't getting

the enough people in specific positions such as command staff and operations, so I started cold calling people. Eventually, I built enough relationships and gained enough trust that I was able to get our team accepted to join two live wild-fires with the NW 12 Incident Management Team, and they became our main stakeholders.

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These are some of the people we've interviewed and built relationships with over time both over Zoom and in person at the Batterman Rd. Fire in Wanatchee and the Whitmore Fire in Nespelem.

 

- WHAT'S OUT THERE? -

Competitive Analysis

There were a lot of products that were trying to get off the ground, but never did that were specific to wildland fire. Things that were successful were for other applications like the military or police organizations.

- WHAT WE LEARNED -

Research Findings

Using the research methods above, we learned a great deal about wildland fire communication. Here's a brief synopsis.

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Unreliable
Connectivity

Connectivity limited and unreliable, making it difficult to utilize technologies.

Read More
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Personal
Safety

Obtained through accountability chain. Out of the loop if outside of the chain.

Read More
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Technology
Transition

Plethora of apps that require connectivity, not connected, manual input, growing pains.

Read More
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Technology Interoperability

Tons of tech. Lack of interoperability = difficult to transfer accurate info.

Read More
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Dynamic
Situations

Fire situations change rapidly, requires quick turnaround time for new tactical strategies.

Read More
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Overexertion of Mind and Body

Heavy loads affect observation, response, and decision-making capabilities.

Read More

- EDITORIAL STYLE RESEARCH PAPER -

Final Research Paper

I led my team in designing an editorial style 90+ page research paper in order to give my team additional training as designers.

- THE SHOW -

Final Research Presentation

Our final research presentation was highly anticipated and attended by 40+ people from Wildland Fire, companies like Axon, Launch Consulting that work in industries tangential to fire, and people from academia.

- 9 WEEKS TO CREATE+TEST+ITERATE -

The Design Phase

- OUR NORTH STAR -

Design Principals

We created design principles from our research insights, to keep them front and center whenever we were designing.

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Usable in All Connectivity

Must be usable in all connectivity situations and bridge the gap between the current paper Incident Action Plan and one that has full connectivity.

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Must-Have Interoperability

Any technology needs to be able to bridge teams and their data together for cross-collaboration.

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Consider Human Factors

Be considerate of the things each category of personnel is dealing with and understanding their particular situations.

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Be Redundant

Any design needs to have contingency plans if it fails: primary, secondary, contingency, and emergency.

- CONCEPT GENERATION -

Ideation

Created 100+ initial concepts inspired by our research and design principles. We used methodologies like braiding, crazy eights, etc.

 

- NARROWING TO FINAL DESIGN -

Co-Design Group Stakeholder Workshop

We created and administered a two hour group co-design workshop in order to narrow to a final design through dot voting. After their selection, we wanted to understand why our stakeholders liked the design, the impact they think it would have, and the probablility of success.

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Zoom call to compliment co-designing on Miro

Co-Design Workshop Agenda
  1. Presented our concepts to our stakeholders

  2. Asked them to dot vote and explain why

  3. Best rated concepts had stories written about them from our stakeholder's perspective

  4. Our stakeholders agreed that digitizing the Incident Action Plan and extending it would make the biggest difference in wildland firefighting today

Screen captures from our co-design workshop with some of our wildland fire stakeholders.

- THE E-IAP WAS BORN -

The Initial Idea

Our group imagined a GIS based platform that would span multiple devices like tablet, mobile, desktop, and mobile accessible by everyone on the fireline with leadership having access to update and make changes. Maps with personnel location data, weather, current fire line, and work assignment visualizations. With location tracking, features could streamline processes such as logistics, planning, logs, creating the IAP itself, and check-in.

Why Our Stakeholders Chose the IAP.
  1. They liked the design because they could easily move and trade resources quickly throughout the day instead of waiting for the morning briefing to be more efficient in dynamic situations.

  2. The impact would reach everyone in wildland fire connecting the incident management team to the people on the ground for more up to date situational awareness

  3. They though it would have a high probability of success because there are already similar platforms out there for the military and they work in places with low connectivity. Wildland fire is also already looking to technology for efficiency and expanding capabilities because of resource shortages.

E-IAP Benefits
  1. Accountability

  2. Increased situational awareness on the fireline

  3. Increased situational awareness for command post

  4. Increased safety on the fireline

  5. Increased awareness of overall operations 

  6. Automating logs

  7. Automating check-In

  8. Automating logistics

  9. Streamlining and visualizing operations

  10. Streamlining the production of the IAP

  11. Saves paper

  12. Streamlines the documentation process

  13. Makes meeting at a location easy

  14. Ability to communicate visually on the map

 

- SETTING UP A TRIP TO A REAL FIRE -

IAP Field Research

After narrowing to the E-IAP concept, we wanted more in-depth knowledge on the IAP and how it is being used on the field to be able to improve on the current processes and understand it's current context. Luckily, my recruiting and conversations with incident commanders paid off, and I was able to gain enough trust to coordinate a spur of the moment field trip to our first real live fire. The fire at Batterman Rd. had mostly been put out and they were just working on clean up, so it was safe and the incident command team had plenty of time to answer our questions and show us everything we wanted to see.

A Long Day at the Batterman Rd. Fire with the NW12 Incident Command Team

5:40am - Arrive at Incident Command Post

6:00am - Experience Morning Briefing

7:00am - Firefighter Breakfast

8:00am - Incident Commanders' Meeting

9:00am - Meeting Public Information Officers

10:00am - Planning Section Meeting

11:00am - Meeting Communications

12:00pm - Firefighter Sack Lunch and Section Chiefs and Command Staff Meeting

2:00pm - Trip to the field to see Division Supervisor

4:00pm - Section Chiefs and Command Staff Meeting

5:00pm - Meeting with Resources Unit

6:00pm - Firefighter Dinner

7:00pm - Section Chiefs and Command Staff IAP Approvals

8:00pm - Planning Section finalizes IAP

9:30pm - Planning Section prints IAP

9:45pm - Depart

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Going to the Batterman Rd. Fire gave us context for all our conversations with participants and grounded us in the reality of wildland fire incident management.

- WHAT WE LEARNED FROM BATTERMAN RD. -

Field Research Findings

By going to the fire, our team was able to experience and contextualize everything we learned in the previous 13 weeks which was critical in aligning the team in our knowledge base and grounded the team in reality.

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No Communication Between Office and the Field

There are a few people that go out to the field from the office once a day to get situational awareness for people at the incident command post, but no way to casually communicate directly.

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Almost Everyone has a Mobile, Tablet, and Desktop Device

Everyone in the office has a mobile, tablet, and desktop device. All the division supervisors have tablet mounts in their trucks and a mobile phone. The technology is already there--they just need software to connect them.

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Manual Paper Process Between Field and Office

Even though the office is dependent on connectivity, the fact that there is no digital way to disseminate information to the field makes it necessary to use a manual process to create paper the IAP.

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Takes 24 Hours to Make Changes Based on Schedule

The incident command team has a 24 hour schedule to update the IAP, the current process makes it hard to make spur of the moment decisions.

 

- DREAMING OF A NEW PROCESS -

Concept Storyboard

After our field research at the Batterman Rd. Fire and having deep conversations with the NW12 Incident Management Team, we came up with compelling ideas ground in the reality of the current context of Wildland Fire.

See below for our storyboard which includes low fidelity mockups that use tablet, desktop, and mobile interfaces.

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The E-IAP concept would give the incident management team more agency to make quicker decisions instead of going through the 24 hour process to plan each day.

 

- CLOSER LOOK -

Low Fidelity Mockups

Here's a few examples of some of the screens we made for our mockups for the storyboard.

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- ALIGNING THE TEAM VISUALLY -

Branding Workshops

I created and facilitated the branding workshops for my team in order to align us on our visual system and basic product consistency. This created more efficiency by helping the team understand what visual styles were being imagined and produced many more viable solutions.

- DEFINING FLOWS AND FEATURES -

Information Architecture (IA)

In order to ensure the adoption and success of this product, we made sure everything in the paper IAP was in the E-IAP. Then, we expanded the IA to accommodate the features we explored with our stakeholders.

Homepage IA
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General Menu IA
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Map Navigation IA
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- GETTING AROUND THE INTERFACE -

Navigation Iterations

Once we identified the key flows with the information architecture, we knew that we needed a usable and simple navigation to allow users to easily access and identify features.

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Made several iterations of the main menu navigation including top and left nav, top nav only, and left nav only and a floating horizontla nav.

Downselected Navigation Frame
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The team aligned on a floating vertical navigation due to the following reasons:

  • Horizontal navigation was harder to reach and navigate to on a tablet

  • Wanted to maximize the amount of space for the map on the screen since that was the primary way for users to visualize, receive, and distribute information. So instead of having a menu that took up the entire side, we opted for a minimal floating menu.

  • Because of the specific needs of wildland fire management, menus with only icons did not provide enough affordances for what they were so added labels.

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Observation of how people hold their iPads, one hand on each side.

- GETTING FEEDBACK FROM OUR STAKEHOLDERS -

Remote High Fidelity Usability Tests

I facilitated two remote, moderated prototype assessment/e